ELLSWORTH, Maine — A Trenton man was arrested Thursday on charges that he stole marijuana plants with a total value of more than $12,000 from a licensed medical marijuana grower, according to police.

Ellsworth police Lt. Harold Page said Friday that police have recovered the 17 plants and are trying to determine what to do with them, because as far as anyone can tell, this case is the first in the state in which plants have been stolen from a licensed medical marijuana grower.

Ellsworth police have communicated with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and are consulting with the Maine attorney general’s office to determine whether they have to return the plants to the licensed grower, he said. Page said the plants are still viable for medical marijuana users.

Part of the issue concerns federal law, which does not allow for medicinal uses of marijuana, Page said, so the department wants to make sure it does not commit any federal violations if it returns the stolen plants to the licensed grower. If police do not return the plants, he said, they will destroy them.

“This is new,” Page said. “No one’s dealt with this before.”

Aaron Pert, 32, came to the attention of local police early Thursday morning, shortly after midnight, when an officer pulled over a Jeep on Route 1A after the Jeep allegedly ran a stop sign, Page said Friday. The driver, Rachel Braun, 29, of Trenton, subsequently was charged with operating an unregistered motor vehicle while Pert, a passenger in the Jeep, was arrested on a charge of possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle and summoned on a charge of marijuana possession.

According to Page, police noted that the relatively small amount of marijuana that Pert allegedly had with him during the traffic stop appeared to have been freshly harvested.

Later that morning, a licensed medical marijuana grower contacted police to report a burglary at his marijuana growing operation. Page declined to identify specifically where the operation is located and said only that it is in the Ellsworth area.

The grower told police that someone had entered two buildings on his property where he cultivates the plants and had taken 17 of them, according to Page. The grower told police the estimated total value of the plants is $12,800.

After Pert had been released from jail on the firearm possession charge, police went later Thursday to a Trenton motel where Braun and Pert have been staying and questioned him about the burglary. Pert eventually told police he had taken the plants and stashed them in the woods in northern Ellsworth, Page said. The lieutenant declined to say where police recovered the plants.

Pert was arrested again, this time on a charge of burglary and theft. Braun has not been charged in connection with the alleged burglary or theft of the marijuana plants, Page said.

By Friday morning, Pert had been released again from Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth on $500 unsecured bail, according to police and jail officials.

Follow BDN reporter Bill Trotter on Twitter at @billtrotter.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....